Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

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Bird on a Fire
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Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Sep 10, 2020 2:06 pm

As discussed on other threads, rapid action is needed to reconcile scientific knowledge about the causes of present and future climate disruption, and the current lack of meaningful political action to address it. For instance, the Paris Agreement's commitments are far too weak, and most countries aren't going to make them anyway:
The majority of the carbon emission reduction pledges for 2030 that 184 countries made under the Paris Agreement aren’t nearly enough to keep global warming well below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius). Some countries won’t achieve their pledges, and some of the world's largest carbon emitters will continue to increase their emissions, according to a panel of world-class climate scientists.

Their report, “The Truth Behind the Paris Agreement Climate Pledges,” warns that by 2030, the failure to reduce emissions will cost the world a minimum of $2 billion per day in economic losses from weather events made worse by human-induced climate change. Moreover, weather events and patterns will hurt human health, livelihoods, food, and water, as well as biodiversity.

On Monday, November 4 [2019], the Trump Administration submitted a formal request to officially pull the United States out of the 2015 Paris Agreement next November. Every nation in the world has agreed “to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change,” according to language in the pact.

“Countries need to double and triple their 2030 reduction commitments to be aligned with the Paris target,” says Sir Robert Watson, former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and co-author of the report that closely examined the 184 voluntary pledges under the Paris Agreement.
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/scie ... -billions/

The Death of Fossil Fuels thread has been doing a fascinating job covering the technological advances that mean that a net-zero-carbon world by 2030 is completely achievable. Unfortunately, the availability and advantages of that technology don't do enough to overcome the economic, societal and political impediments to the effecting the necessary transitions.

With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting and useful to start another thread to collate and discuss sensible actions being undertaken to enact change. In particular, I'd like to think about ideas that utilise as far as possible the current institutions and status quo viz. distributions of wealth and power, because if we have to change politics and the economy in general before we can fix 2030's carbon emissions than we are probably totally f.cked.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Sep 10, 2020 2:12 pm

Method 1: the courts, using legislation that has already been passed.

For example, Portuguese children sue 33 countries over climate change at European court:
Young activists from Portugal have filed the first climate change case at the European court of human rights in Strasbourg, demanding 33 countries make more ambitious emissions cuts to safeguard their future physical and mental wellbeing.

The crowdfunded legal action breaks new ground by suing multiple states both for the emissions within their borders and also for the climate impact that their consumers and companies have elsewhere in the world through trade, fossil-fuel extraction and outsourcing.

The plaintiffs – four children and two young adults – want the standard-setting court to issue binding orders on the 33 states, which include the EU as well as the UK, Norway, Russia, Turkey, Switzerland and Ukraine, to prevent discrimination against the young and protect their rights to exercise outdoors and live without anxiety.

The case is being filed after Portugal recorded its hottest July in 90 years. It was initiated three years ago following devastating forest fires in Portugal that killed over 120 people in 2017. Four of the plaintiffs are from Leiria, one of the worst-hit areas. The two other applicants live in Lisbon, which sweltered through record-breaking 44C heat in 2018.

Expert testimony will warn that these trends will worsen in the future. On the current path of about 3C of warming above pre-industrial levels, scientists have predicted a thirty-fold increase in deaths from heatwaves in western Europe by the period 2071-2100. At 4C, which is also possible, they say heatwaves above 40C would endure for more than 30 days a year, quadrupling the risk of forest fires.
Deliberately taking actions that will result in unsafe conditions in the future does seem to be a pretty clear case of prejudicing somebody's welfare. I'm not a lawyer, but organisations like GLAN (who are behind this action) and ClientEarth (who have had several notable successes in the past) are, and seem to think it's worth bringing a case.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Sep 10, 2020 2:24 pm

Method 2: economics.

There have been campaigns for divestments for at least a decade, often centred on universities, but now it's becoming mainstream. For example, Managers Of $40 Trillion Make Plans To Decarbonize The World:
The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) is a European group of global pension funds and investment managers, totaling over 1,200 members in 16 countries, who control more than $40 trillion in assets (€33 trillion). They have drawn up a plan to cut carbon in their portfolios to net-zero and hope other investors will join them.

The group’s mission is to mobilize capital for a global low-carbon transition and to ensure resiliency of investments and markets in the face of the changes, including the changing climate itself. They provide asset managers with a set of recommended actions, policies, collaborations, measures and methods to help them meet the net-zero goal by 2050 in an effort to address climate change. Their framework was developed with more than 70 funds worldwide.

The European Union aims to be climate-neutral by 2050 – an economy with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. This objective is at the heart of the European Green Deal and in line with the EU’s commitment to global climate action under the Paris Agreement.
Part of the motivation may well be humanitarian, but this is probably also good economic and legal sense. Not only are fossil fuel companies in increasing legal difficulty, for both direct fraud and for misleading the public for 50 years over climate change risks, there's also growing awareness of the fact that the majority of the world's carbon stocks can't be burned anwyay, making most of them worthless, and regulators are slowly beginning to take an interest in the carbon bubble.

The article continues with some back-of-envelope economic calculations:
The equivalent in electricity to charge an all-electric vehicle fleet is about 28 billion kWhs/day, the output of almost 2,000,000 MW of new installed generation. This is another 10 trillion kWhs/year, bringing our total future energy needs worldwide to about 45 trillion kWhs/year.

At a world average price of 14¢/kWh, that represents about $6 trillion/year.

But we spend over $5 trillion globally on fossil fuel subsidies and these would be freed up for this task of decarbonization if we forgo fossil fuel. So cost doesn’t have to be the big issue we think it is.

Plus, if a society uses coal for over 30% of its energy needs, their health care costs increase about 10%. Global spending on health care totals about $8 trillion, so replacing coal could save up to $800 billion/year. That, plus ending the subsidies, could well pay for most of this huge change.
The point about healthcare shouldn't be underestimated. Within the EU, one in eight deaths is linked to pollution, much of it from fossil fuels. This is almost certainly a bigger problem in countries with worse air quality and more young people: how many €trillions are we wiping off future productivity with the diesel generators of Lagos or Chinese coal fumes?
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by discovolante » Thu Sep 10, 2020 2:29 pm

I listened to a podcast on strategic climate litigation a few weeks ago, can't remember if I've linked to it already: https://www.lse.ac.uk/lse-player?catego ... &facet=all

it was quite interesting. One thing that was interesting was Irum Ahsan talking about litigation in Asia - firstly how it is perceived as something that interferes with development and industry which is needed to bring people out of poverty, when as she argues it's necessary that development is sustainable, and I think she also talks about a 'friendly' judiciary who are amenable to considering these issues, and providing training etc.

I have to admit I wasn't listening to it that closely as I was cooking and generally mooching about while it was on, so I can't highlight any 'take aways' from it, but if you have 90 mins to spare...

Thanks for all these sorts of threads btw.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by discovolante » Thu Sep 10, 2020 3:08 pm

discovolante wrote:
Thu Sep 10, 2020 2:29 pm
I listened to a podcast on strategic climate litigation a few weeks ago, can't remember if I've linked to it already: https://www.lse.ac.uk/lse-player?catego ... &facet=all

it was quite interesting. One thing that was interesting was Irum Ahsan talking about litigation in Asia - firstly how it is perceived as something that interferes with development and industry which is needed to bring people out of poverty, when as she argues it's necessary that development is sustainable, and I think she also talks about a 'friendly' judiciary who are amenable to considering these issues, and providing training etc.

I have to admit I wasn't listening to it that closely as I was cooking and generally mooching about while it was on, so I can't highlight any 'take aways' from it, but if you have 90 mins to spare...

Thanks for all these sorts of threads btw.
Actually just to link economics and law - I've forgotten a lot of the detail so may be getting my facts slightly skewed but one example of litigation given by one of the speakers was a case in Poland, where the claimants bought some (a small number of) shares in I think a company that invested in coal, and then brought an action against the company for breach of its duty to them as shareholders for investing in an energy source that isn't financially viable in the long run. Or something like that anyway. It's probably written down on the internet somewhere!
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Sep 10, 2020 3:41 pm

discovolante wrote:
Thu Sep 10, 2020 3:08 pm
discovolante wrote:
Thu Sep 10, 2020 2:29 pm
I listened to a podcast on strategic climate litigation a few weeks ago, can't remember if I've linked to it already: https://www.lse.ac.uk/lse-player?catego ... &facet=all

it was quite interesting. One thing that was interesting was Irum Ahsan talking about litigation in Asia - firstly how it is perceived as something that interferes with development and industry which is needed to bring people out of poverty, when as she argues it's necessary that development is sustainable, and I think she also talks about a 'friendly' judiciary who are amenable to considering these issues, and providing training etc.

I have to admit I wasn't listening to it that closely as I was cooking and generally mooching about while it was on, so I can't highlight any 'take aways' from it, but if you have 90 mins to spare...

Thanks for all these sorts of threads btw.
Actually just to link economics and law - I've forgotten a lot of the detail so may be getting my facts slightly skewed but one example of litigation given by one of the speakers was a case in Poland, where the claimants bought some (a small number of) shares in I think a company that invested in coal, and then brought an action against the company for breach of its duty to them as shareholders for investing in an energy source that isn't financially viable in the long run. Or something like that anyway. It's probably written down on the internet somewhere!
I'm going to listen to that podcast this evening - it looks fascinating. So thanks!

Someone I follow on Twitter posted recently that they're running to be on the "Representative Committee" of their bank (in the Faeroe Islands) in order to demand that it divests from hydrocarbons. So maybe amongst financial institutions with more democratic governance structures there's opportunities to push for this sort of thing.
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